Babies who are spoon-fed by their parents are more likely to become overweight, a new study has revealed.
They are also more likely to have problems telling when they are full.
Scientists believe babies allowed to feed themselves during weaning are less likely to overeat and be overweight as toddlers.
Their study also revealed that spoon-fed children are more likely to be "fussy-eaters" than those left to eat on their own.
Dr Amy Brown, from Swansea University, said parents who spoon-feed their children pureed foods create harmful eating habits which lead to childhood obesity.
"Our study indicates that taking a baby-led approach to weaning may reduce a baby's risk of being overweight as they are in control of their food intake," she said.
"This results in the baby being better able to control his or her appetite which could have a long-term impact upon weight gain and eating style that may continue into childhood.
"There is increasing recognition of the role of feeding style during infancy upon how a child's appetite and eating style develops.
"Allowing the child to regulate their own appetite and not pressurising them to eat more than they need is a really important step in encouraging children to develop healthy eating patterns for life."
Dr Brown and Michelle Lee, from the University's College of Human and Health Sciences, compared the weight and eating styles of children weaned using a baby-led approach with those weaned using a traditional spoon-feeding style.
Baby-led weaning allows infants to feed themselves solid foods from the start of weaning.
Instead of the parent spoon-feeding the baby puréed foods, baby-led babies are offered a range of whole foods which they pick up and eat themselves until they are full.
The study looked at a sample of 298 babies - first looking at how they were introduced to solid foods between six and 12 months.
The researchers then studied the weight and eating behaviour of the same infants between 18 and 24 months.
Dr Brown said the study found infants weaned using a baby-led approach were "significantly more" able to stop eating when they felt full and were less likely to be overweight.
These results were independent of other factors such as mother's background, birth weight, weaning age and breastfeeding.
"This may be explained by the baby being allowed to handle foods, control their intake and eat at their own pace, alongside being exposed to a wider variety of tastes.
"All of this may promote appetite regulation and healthy weight gain trajectories."
The results of the study were published by the journal Paediatric Obesity.
- DAILY MAIL